Camp Pangatian Memorial Shrine, Cabanatuan City
Located close to the town of Cabanatuan, the Camp Pangatian Memorial Shrine sits on the site of the former Cabanatuan Prison Camp. Following the surrender of Allied forces to the Imperial Japanese Army after the Battle of Bataan in 1942, thousands of US troops were sent to Prisoner of War camps around the Cabanatuan area. Holding 8,000 American soldiers at its peak, including many who had been transferred from the nearby Camp O’Donnell, the Cabanatuan Prison Camp was considered to be the largest Prisoner of War Camp in the Philippines. Housed in bamboo barracks, the prisoners were contained within a 550-metre wide yard surrounded by barbed wire fencing and four guard towers. As the war progressed, many of the able-bodied prisoners were sent to other Japanese-controlled sites, such as Taiwan, Manchukuo and Japan, to work in labour camps that produced weaponry and repaired Japanese military transportation vehicles. The 500 men who were left behind were those unable to work due to sickness or disablement.
In January 1945, US military leaders and Filipino guerrillas initiated a plan to rescue the remaining 500 prisoners from the Cabanatuan Prison Camp. Traveling 48 kilometres behind enemy lines, the group of guerrillas, rangers and scouts attacked the camp, killing a large number of Japanese troops and successfully liberating the prisoners. For those well enough, transportation back to the US started immediately, while for those still unwell and weak, an extended rest period in US-managed hospitals followed. Later in 1945, the mortal remains of those who hadn’t survived were exhumed and concentrated at nearby cemeteries or transported back to the US
Built and maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission with financial support from former American POWs and their families, the Pangatian Memorial Shrine was built in memory of the heroism displayed by US and Filipino soldiers during the liberation of the prisoners at the Cabanatuan Camp. Nearby, two memorial walls list the 2,656 American prisoners who died during their imprisonment at the camp. Adjacent to the Pangatian Memorial Shrine, the Philippine provincial government installed another memorial in 2003. Consisting of two identical markers, one in Filipino and the other in English, the memorial honors the Filipino guerillas that assisted in the rescue of the Cabanatuan POWs. According to some news sources, there are plans for a World War II museum to be developed by the local government on the same site.